Haunting, Anonymous Portraits of Airplane Passengers

February 13, 2013 | Andy Cush

Photographer John Schnabel took these eerie stills using means that might have landed him in jail or an interrogation room today: by standing at the end of a runway with a telephoto lens, snapping pictures without anyone’s permission. The work was done in the mid-90s, but is now being released in a book entitled Passengers. “It was a different time and there was not the same kind of suspicion of cameras,” he told Wired. “There wasn’t such a sensitively about the airport.”

Something about the graininess of the images necessitated by the zoom lens lends them an uncanny sadness that highlights the anonymity of the people inside. According to Schnabel, that frozen-in-space-and-time feeling is deliberate, as it highlights the sense of placelessness that often accompanies air travel. “I think viewers can identify with those situations and then bring their own feelings to it,” he says